The Steelers are currently 2-0 in their first two weeks of the season. The defense has oftentimes bailed out the offense and even Ben Roethlisberger has acknowledged that. Through two weeks the Steelers are bringing the blitz at a rate of 64% above the NFL average of 28%, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Steelers also lead the league by pressuring the quarterback 45.6% times. The Buffalo Bills are the second most to pressure the quarterback in the NFL with a rate of 36.8%. The defense currently ranks second in the league behind the Washington Football team with 11 sacks. Steelers have 4 players ranked in the top 6 of total pressures generated: Bud Dupree - 14 (T-2nd), TJ Watt - 13 (3rd), Stephon Tuitt - 12 (T-6th), and Cameron Heyward - 12 (T-6th) according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler was asked during his weekly press conference if the amount that the Steelers have blitzed is sustainable through two games and what makes the Steelers defense special when blitzing?
"You can’t do anything all the time in the National Football League, defensively I don’t think, because it catches up to you. That’s not the only thing we do. We do it well, and I like the results that have been of it. There’s also the downside, and some of the downside is you put your corners and your secondary, you put them in trouble a little bit. We can’t do that. We can’t do that all the time in the National Football League. Anything you do like that and you’re successful at it, somebody is going to try to figure out a way to make you unsuccessful. We want to be aggressive. We want to get after people and all that stuff, but we have to be smart in how we do it also."
Another question was asked to Butler on why Vince Williams and Mike Hilton are always raising their hands to blitz and what makes them so good at it.
"I would raise my hand all the time, too. I don’t blame them. Because as much as you do it, the more you do it, the more of a feel you get in terms of when they are going to snap the ball. How does that come? You look at the play clock some. You just get a feel for it out on the field some. We’re going to get hard counts. That’s what people do to combat pressure. We’re going to get hard counts. They’re going to try to call us offsides and all that stuff. Our guys do a pretty good job of keying the ball. I think we have to keep doing that if we continue to blitz as much as we have."
Heyward mentioned this week during practice that the Steelers defense has guys that love to blitz, but they have to remain calm and learn to set the blitz up.
"We have certain guys that love to be the blitzer," Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward said. "Those are usually our blitzers. Sometimes, we've got to say calm down, we've got to set it up. You can't just slide your O-line one way because we could be coming from so many different ways, then it allows us to get one-on-ones in the pass rush game, and that's when we can really make you pay."
The Steelers secondary has not been as good as they were last season, but this is primarily from the defense blitzing. Minkah says he welcomes it and trusts his defensive line. He says the Steelers probably have the best defensive line in the NFL.
"We welcome it," Fitzpatrick said. "We get paid to cover receivers, cover tight ends, cover running backs. That's our job. It is a little bit tougher. We trust our D-line. We've got probably the best defensive line, front seven, across the league. We trust them to get there fast, and they trust us to cover on the back end and not bust any assignments. And I think we execute that very well around the board."
Only time will tell if the Steelers can continue to sustain the blitz. They are currently rushing at the quarterback at a Championship level. They do say defense wins championships in the NFL so let's see how far this defense can lead this team throughout the entire length of the season. If the defense can continue playing at the rate they are currently they will be one of the best defenses in the NFL by the end of the season. Blitzburgh is back!